Justin Bieber's Image Rehab Campaign Is Working

by Alex Kritselis

If you had trouble getting the Internet to work on Tuesday afternoon, it was probably because of the premiere of Justin Bieber's acoustic "What Do You Mean?" video. The now 21-year-old artist wrote on Twitter that he released the black-and-white clip as a "thank you" to fans for helping "What Do You Mean?" become his first No. 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, but believe me, there's a lot more to it than that. The acoustic "What Do You Mean?" video clearly represents the next phase of Justin Bieber's slick image rehabilitation campaign (which, by the way, seems to be working). What do I mean? (I'm sorry; I tried to stop my fingers from typing the words, but they were too strong!) It's pretty simple: The Biebs has a new album coming out on Nov. 13, and I think he wants to make sure the general public likes him well enough to actually buy it.

The first phase of the campaign — which I call "The Apology Tour" — kicked off at the end of January when Bieber posted a video online in which he essentially apologizes for acting like a "conceited" and "arrogant" goblin for the "the past year, year and a half" and assures us that his reckless behavior and rude 'tude are not at all indicative of who he truly is on the inside. Perfect.

Then, the next day, he appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and said he wanted to "own up" to his crappiness and "learn to laugh" at himself. So, naturally, he agreed to be roasted on Comedy Central! For her part, Degeneres said she knew from talking to Bieber's manager, Scooter Braun, that he was doing "really, really good" and had "straightened up a lot" recently.

The message was clear: "You guys. Bieber is no longer a spoiled, immature brat! He's learned from his mistakes AND he promises to do better in the future. Look, he's even allowing himself to be publicly shamed for his bad behavior on TV! How cool is that? LOVE HIM." The first phase was complete.

The second phase of the campaign was all about reminding the world of Bieber's considerable talent. It kicked off with the premiere of his fantastic Jack Ü collaboration, "Where Are Ü Now," at the end of February, and concluded with his decent-to-solid live performance at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards at the end of August.

After singing, dancing, and flying all over the VMA stage, Bieber even shed a few tears, possibly (probably?) in an attempt to prove he's no longer Dennis the Menace with unlimited monies: he's a mature, sensitive young man with a heart and lots and lots of feelings. (He may have been genuinely moved — after all, he had just finished his first major live performance in a very long time — but, as always, I remain a bit skeptical. It's in my nature.)

And finally, with the release of the acoustic "What Do You Mean?" video, we've entered the third phase of the campaign, which seems to be focused on convincing us that Bieber is a wholesome dude who loves to have a good time (within reason, of course). In the video, Bieber isn't shown partying, driving under the influence, or egging his neighbor's mansion; he's shown skateboarding, giggling with friends, and cuddling a fluffy white puppy by the pool. Seriously? Seriously.

Again, the message is clear: "Did you get a load of that good-natured goofing around? DID YOU GET A LOAD OF THAT PUPPY? He's changed! Love this man. LOVE THIS MAN NOW!" OK, OK. Jeez. Check it out for yourself below.

If the success of "What Do You Mean?" is any indication, Bieber's image rehabilitation campaign is off to a great start. He's had one major stumbling block so far (remember when he posted that pic of his butt on Instagram in July?), but lately, he appears to be in it to win it. I wish him nothing but the best. Hopefully, it isn't all an act.

Images: kidrauhl/YouTube; Giphy